April 27, 2007

Higher order

Some years ago, the author Siddarth Dube researched the spread of HIV/AIDS in India for his book, Sex, Lies and AIDS. At the time, the countries with the highest numbers of HIV-infected people were in Africa (Botswana, South Africa, etc). Yet India was not far behind: at the time (2000-2001), Dube says Indians were dying from AIDS at the rate of 300,000 a year.

How big is that figure? Try one Indian dead every two minutes.

But in the face of this tragedy, Dube ran into some intriguing attitudes among Indian authorities: they did their best to explain to him that we are a uniquely "moral" society. Dr AN Malviya of AIIMS in New Delhi, arguably our finest medical college and hospital, pronounced to Dube that Indians were "of a higher moral order" than the promiscuous Africans who were suffering the onslaught of AIDS. The Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr AS Paintal, believed that "nowhere else in the world is chastity considered an important aspect of a woman's life apart from India." For such reasons, these gentlemen and others told Dube then that HIV/AIDS could never spread here as it had elsewhere in the world, and therefore there was no need to take steps to halt the spread of the disease in India.

No need at all. Yes. Therefore, in 2005 India had close to 6 million people infected by the HIV virus: the highest count in the world, well ahead of every African country.

But we retain that "higher moral order", and yes, "nowhere else in the world is chastity considered an important aspect of a woman's life apart from India."

Evidence: an AIDS event for truckers in New Delhi a couple of weeks ago, where such celebrities as Sunny Deol, Shilpa Shetty, Parmeshwar Godrej and Richard Gere appeared. They spoke about condoms and safe sex and the like.

But remembering, again, that "higher moral order", it's a safe bet that you didn't hear much about what these stars spoke about; instead it's a safe bet you heard only one thing about this event. That Richard Gere kissed Shilpa Shetty.

Sorry, maybe you heard a second thing. A Jaipur court has issued warrants for the arrest of Shetty and Gere, because their stage act "denigrated" Indian culture, tradition and values, and had a "tendency to corrupt the society."

The higher moral order, remember? At risk because a man kissed a woman on stage. And never mind the ... what was that again, MAIDS? SUV infection?


Thanks to Anil Nair for his note about this. Also read Michael Deibert's take.


Anonymous said...

Couldnt help noticing that 6M out of 10B is 0.006% of our population. I guess that is still a very high proportion.

What is pretty clear though is that the "higher moral plane" attitude sure wont help to solve this.


Dilip D'Souza said...

Our population is just a bit over 1B. 6M, out of 1B, is 0.6%.

Anonymous said...

oops yes, the ratio is 0.006, that works out to 0.6%


acrain said...

U must look at it as a percentage of adult population..i dont have the figures but it would shoot upto more that 1% of the adult population.

Whats more alarming is the AIDS is only one of the problems in India. We have around 7 crores TB patients. Malaria is huge, so is dysentry and the authorities are so casual about it

Anonymous said...

Since you love MSM's missteps, here's a little nugget from CNN-IBN:

Final results of the poll: Is kissing in public, in cinema such a crime, or is this a classic case of judicial over reach?

Yes – 43 per cent

No – 57 per cent

I wonder what the people were saying No to? :)